Category Archives: vulgarity (British)

On fuckery

Roger Hallam

Crudity will set you free

Dalrymple writes:

Secular holiness is an unpleasant trait, and it is always a pleasure to see the unfrocking of a secular bishop.

Roger Hallam is the founder of his evangelical church, the Extinction Rebellion. In an interview with the Hamburg newspaper the Zeit, Hallam declared that genocides were

like, a normal event. [Das ist ein fast normales Ereignis is the Zeit‘s translation.]

The Belgians, for instance,

went to the Congo in the late 19th century and decimated [sic] it. [Die Belgier kamen im späten 19. Jahrhundert in den Kongo und haben ihn dezimiert.]

In this context, the Holocaust was

just another fuckery in human history. [Nur ein weiterer Scheiß in der Menschheitsgeschichte is the Zeit‘s elegant rendering.]

Jean-Marie Le Pen

Dalrymple comments:

Hallam might appear to have joined the camp of the anti-Semites such as Jean-Marie Le Pen, who called the Holocaust a detail of history, but he was not claiming that the Holocaust did not happen or that it was not serious; he was saying that it was not unique and that we should not continue to say it was unique. There has long been debate as to whether the Holocaust is typologically comparable to, for example, the Armenian genocide or the mass killings in Cambodia. No doubt something can be said on both sides of the question; I do not think anything important turns on it. The Rwandan genocide would be neither better nor worse than it was, whether it were the same as, similar to or distinct from the Holocaust.

What is appalling about Hallam’s words, Dalrymple avers,

is their crudity. The vulgarity of his expression was matched by the imprecision of his thought. The word fuckery is extremely lazy, especially when used by someone with pretensions to seriousness. It is a bit like seeing the Himalayas and saying ‘Very nice.’ A cup of tea and Bach’s St Matthew Passion are also very nice.

Nice.

It is hardly to be expected, Dalrymple says,

that a man using such a term to describe the wilful murder of millions of people with a view to exterminating their kind would be a very clear thinker.

A fucked-up educational system

But it is indicative of a

a reduction in basic educational standards. People have always written tosh, but after many years of compulsory education of the entire population, one might have hoped for a better mastery of language and grasp of what constitutes an argument.

Dalrymple says that to be reduced to using the word fuckery in the face of a catastrophe in history of any scale is symptomatic of

  • debasement of language
  • limitation of vocabulary
  • stunted imagination
  • impoverishment of thought or inability to think

The degradation of public discourse in the West

is evident, and one is tempted to say planned and deliberate. It is as if the educated classes had been trying for years to demonstrate their sympathetic identification with the lower orders by adopting what they supposed, wrongly, were their vulgar habits of speech.

Linguistic Luddism

Take Tribes, by the highly praised playwright Nina Raine, in which she depicts life in an upper-middle-class household for the benefit of an upper-middle-class audience. Opening the script at random, to page 28, Dalrymple finds the following expressions within the space of 15 lines:

  • ‘I want my fucking pen back.’
  • ‘You thieving little shit!’
  • ‘Fuck you!’
  • My arse!

Dalrymple comments that such language, more or less constant throughout the play, is the reverse of expressive except in the most primitive sense, but the intelligentsia would probably consider that to draw attention to the fact is

  • absurd
  • retrograde
  • censorious
  • sanctimonious
  • trying to turn the clock back
  • narrow-minded
  • bigoted
  • linguistic Luddism
  • inhibited

He concludes:

On this view, refinement will constrain or imprison you. But, then, we should not be surprised by a man who cannot tell the difference between genocide and pollution.

Scheiße for brains

On slappers

Dalrymple remarks that slappers

are notable for their vulgarity.

What lies behind Grant’s adoption of gutter language?

Dalrymple explains that Hugh Grant (left) was the star of the film Four Weddings and a Funeral (1994) and once had some kind of trouble with the police

A tweet by the actor and thinker Hugh Grant, addressing the British prime minister, reads:

You will not fuck with my children’s future. You will not destroy the freedoms my grandfather fought two world wars to defend. Fuck off you over-promoted rubber bath toy. Britain is revolted by you and you [sic] little gang of masturbatory prefects.

Dalrymple comments:

No doubt the space allowed by Twitter does not encourage profound or logical reflection (though in the Analects, Confucius manages concision and compression somewhat better than Mr Grant). What is important in the above mental eructation is not its thought, or even feeling, but its mode of expression.

Grant’s dull and tedious adoption of the language of the gutter is

much more significant in the long term than Brexit or the actions of the prime minister. It points to the cultural degeneration of a nation that, insofar as it has an ideology at all, has made vulgarity posing as egalitarianism its ideology.

Grant’s greatest rôle: defender of freedom and democracy

Grant, says Dalrymple,

if I have understood correctly — though I am open to correction — has made something of his character as an upper-middle-class Englishman. But he is at one with the British cultural élite in vulgarity of expression.

We may be sure that,

irrespective of what the prime minister does, Mr Grant will be able to arrange for a bright future, at least in the material sense. We may be sure that, if any government were to threaten that assured material future by genuinely and inescapably egalitarian economic measures, his howls of indignation would be a good deal more sincere than in the tweet above.

Dalrymple notes that vulgarity as an ideology

is a substitute for economic egalitarianism, in which neither I nor the ideological vulgarians such as Mr Grant believe, and which both of us fear. Mr Grant, however, thinks that he can deflect some of the envy no doubt directed at him if he can show by his employment of vulgar language that he is really in the same boat as the most subterranean members of the underclass. He is asserting some kind of equality with them by his use of debased and inexpressive language.

The tendency to act down,

which occurs in spheres other than language, does not derive from any guilt about social or economic inequality, which, on the contrary, it is designed to preserve and maintain. It is rather a camouflage or smokescreen for privilege, whether that privilege be earned or not. But though it is playacting — indeed, defender of freedom and democracy may be Mr Grant’s greatest rôle — it is not without real cultural effect, an effect that is baleful if you do not approve of the coarsening that it brings with it.

Moreover,

lack of verbal restraint is not liberation, it is impoverishment of thought.

Vulgarity of expression in the British cultural élite

Leafing through the cultural section of the Observer, which Dalrymple explains is

the Sunday newspaper of the intelligentsia (at least, that part of it that still reads a newspaper),

he comes across the following statement, by a playwright called Lucy Prebble, about her latest work:

It’s a risky, clumsy motherfucker, this play.

The accompanying picture is of the playwright,

dressed in a rather pretty and no doubt expensive flowered frock, smiling and looking exceedingly pleased with herself.

Dalrymple notes that

apart from the obviously bogus self-deprecation of the statement,

the use of the word motherfucker

is clearly intended as a signal of her liberation from supposedly bourgeois restraint and her desire to assert her membership in the linguistic underclass. We may assume that as a successful playwright she is capable of more expressive, less uninformatively vulgar ways of describing her doubts about the value of her play. Her choice of word is not to convey anything meaningful about her play, which it is clearly incapable of doing, but to establish her social and political virtue, that is to say her nonmembership of an élite that once upon a time would not have used such a word, and certainly would not have wished it to be published that it had used it.

Exceedingly pleased with herself: Lucy Prebble

Het eenzame hart: curlygirl24

Dalrymple schrijft:

De Britse krant de Guardian, ongeveer vergelijkbaar met de Volkskrant, heeft een website voor mensen die een partner zoeken. Die mensen krijgen de gelegenheid zichzelf te beschrijven om zich voor anderen aantrekkelijk te maken. Hoewel zo’n beschrijving niet helemaal waar hoeft te zijn – zo zegt iedereen een goed gevoel voor humor te hebben – geven deze zelfportretjes ons toch enig inzicht in wat mensen denken dat anderen aantrekkelijk vinden.

Onlangs las ik zo’n zelfportretje van een vrouw van 30 die als nom d’internet had gekozen voor ‘curlygirl24’. Laat ik hieraan toevoegen dat de Guardian voornamelijk wordt gelezen door mensen die tot de 5 procent hoogstopgeleiden van de bevolking horen. Inderdaad hebben alle gebruikers van de datingwebsite een beroep in de artistieke, intellectuele of wetenschappelijke sfeer, althans dat beweren ze.

Dit had curlygirl24 over zichzelf te melden, en bedenk dat ze hier probeert aantrekkelijk te zijn voor anderen: ‘Ze zeggen wel over mij dat ik een paradox ben: ik heb de emotionele vaagheid die je als meisje nu eenmaal hebt, naast het vermogen om heel veel te drinken zonder om te vallen en daarbij mijn vrienden en willekeurige onbekenden in de zeik te nemen.’

Anders gezegd: ze veronderstelt dat een man zich tot haar aangetrokken zal voelen door haar vermogen of bereidheid om wildvreemde mensen grof te bejegenen. Dat is toch een interessant commentaar op de cultuur waarin zij denkt te leven. In dezelfde beschrijving van zichzelf zegt ze dat ze financieel journalist is, toch geen betrekking voor iemand zonder opleiding. Curlygirl24 behoort dus tot de intellectuele elite. Wat voor cultuur kun je verwachten van een elite die bewust prat gaat op het in dronken toestand beledigen van onbekenden?

Coarseness and vulgarity of thought and of language

‘It sets upon a pedestal promiscuous and adulterous intercourse’: Mervyn Griffith-Jones

Dalrymple writes that in R v Penguin Books Ltd, the prosecutor, Mervyn Griffith-Jones,

seemed not to have noticed that society had changed since his upper-class youth.

Griffith-Jones

opened the case with such pomposity that he became a figure of fun ever afterwards,

and is remembered only for what he said in his opening remarks to the jury:

It does tend…to induce lustful thoughts. It sets upon a pedestal promiscuous and adulterous intercourse. It commends…sensuality almost as a virtue. It encourages…coarseness and vulgarity of thought and of language…It must tend to deprave…One of the ways in which you can test this book, and test it from the most liberal outlook, is to ask yourselves the question, when you have read it through, would you approve of your young sons, young daughters—because girls can read as well as boys—reading this book? Is it a book you would have lying around in your own house? Is it a book you would even wish your wife and servants to read?

The court erupted in laughter, Dalrymple reminds us, and

later, after the not guilty verdict, in a debate in the House of Lords on an unsuccessful motion to strengthen the law of obscenity, one of the noble Lords was reported to have replied to the question of whether he would mind if his daughter read Lady Chatterley’s Lover that he wouldn’t mind in the least, but he would mind very much if his gamekeeper read it.

Dalrymple lands in England

Disembarking after the Channel crossing, Dalrymple notices that large numbers of young Englishwomen

have facial expressions simultaneously ovine and lupine, and bare their pudgy midriffs, with a tattooed lizard or butterfly for individuality.

They are, he says,

fried food and alcoholic Friday nights made flesh.

British vulgarity, he observes,

enters the fabric of life and seems to omit no detail.

Dalrymple walks into a small supermarket, where a spotty youth addresses him as ‘mate’. Dalrymple demands that the youth not address him thus. The cur returns

a look of sullen malevolence.

On the train, an 11-year-old girl, in tight pink leggings, keeps her feet and shoes securely on the seat next to her, under the gaze of her mother, who is tattooed, pierced in the nose and lower lip, and eating crisps. The girl’s six-year-old brother has already had his ear pierced, and wears a diamante stud in it. Dalrymple comments:

It is never too early for the English to teach their offspring vulgarity.

Vulgarity, says Dalrymple,

has its place as a counterweight to pretension, of course.

But

as a ruling national characteristic it is charmless, stupid and without virtue.

He suspects that it is connected with

the equality that we feel it necessary to pretend is our ruling political passion. Since economic equality is no longer deemed desirable, the only other equality possible is that of cultural mores; and since it is much easier to level down than up (which, after all, was once the Labour party’s aim), the middle classes can best express their political virtue by embracing and promoting the vulgarity that they assume — wrongly — was the only cultural characteristic of the proletariat.

The problem with adopting such a pose

is that if you keep it up long enough it ceases to be merely a pose. It is what you are: in the case of the English, vulgar.